Last weekend I took an extra day off from my “regular job” and traveled alone through Colorado and part of New Mexico to spend time with a friend I’ve known for more than 35 years. Despite having a GPS and an atlas, I got lost a few times, trying to navigate some towns and cities in which I’ve spent little or no time. At one point, the interstate traffic was extra backed up due to a traffic accident, and I sat on the road for quite some time before embarking on locating a different route, eventually getting to the place I’d intended. Even without the accident, car congestion raged like a tornado – neither of which is an event with which I’m comfortable.
Despite some fear and uncertainty, I relished my journey, experiencing breath-taking scenery, a wonderful visit with my dear friend, and exploring history and culture that I have little interaction with on a regular basis. Even though I enjoy traveling and seeing new sites and having new experiences, I stepped out of my comfort zone by doing all the driving – and having several significant setbacks – alone. It’s been more than 15 years since I undertook such a major trip basically alone; the last such adventure I had a dog and cat to keep me company (and somewhat protected). Plus, I was younger then – now that I’m older, getting outside my box of travel comfort (Wyoming and Montana with their subdued traffic) was somewhat terrifying, truthfully. But, I survived. And, brushing away the troubles I experienced, I really did enjoy myself.
Life calls us to step out of our comfort zone on occasion; so can our writing. We can write in one genre, write across genres (weave two together), or write multi-genre (two or more different types). For example, someone who is a poet may attempt a novella. Another who writes mysteries may add a touch of romance. Someone who writes children’s books may try their hand at women’s historical fiction. Not all crossovers succeed, but some do. Adventuring into a new land of writing can challenge us, uplift us, or defeat us … but we never know until we try. For a few interesting articles on crossover writing, visit http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/crossgenre.shtml, http://livewritebreathe.com/writing-in-multiple-genres/, and http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-write-sell-the-cross-genre-novel.
My tag line for years has been, “I write inspirational dog stories for children and adults.” And, I love what I’ve composed the past seven years! I’ve been blessed to put together five books and to have five short stories accepted into Chicken Soup for the Soul, including last week’s release of “I Can’t Believe My Dog Did That!” I’ve spoken at libraries, in classrooms, and for senior and women’s ministry groups – and I love doing those presentations! I’m published in several magazines, including Creation Illustrated and WREN, and this year I dabbled in essay/creative nonfiction … a bit “out of the box” for me, but I found I thoroughly enjoyed it! This winter I’m going to experiment with a romance story – I have several friends who write romance and I’ve read several and now I’m intrigued. I remember being young and overwhelmingly in love – I’m hoping to capture those remembrances and see what I can compose as a sweet yet saucy story (I think having my 35th class reunion helped spark the spark!) … and I just may throw in a dog rescue sub-theme for good measure! Perhaps, like a few of my friends, I’ll use a pen name as I explore this genre – there are options for getting out of the box of comfort, just like there were options for me to get to my destination as I was ‘boxed in’ the traffic!
Have you stepped out of your comfort zone in life or in your writing lately? Were you ultimately glad you did? Perhaps that could be a challenge to each of us as we anticipate the close of one season and the start of another – finding a favorite place to write and attempting a new genre — just for the heck of it! If you do step out of your comfort zone and attempt such an endeavor, I wish you great ideas, amazing inspiration, and good ol’ fashion creative fun! After all, writers don’t need to box themselves in, so I encourage you to step out of your writing comfort zone, expand your horizons — I’m going to give it a whirl!
Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released August 19, 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal and River Press newspapers, and she’s had articles published in Creation Illustrated magazine. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.